Low- and no-oak chardonnays have gained popularity in recent years, but Bedell Cellars’ winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich has been making them his entire winemaking career, which started at the now-defunct Bridghampton Winery in 1982. His first two wines were a riesling and an un-oaked chardonnay.
Today, the steel chardonnay that he makes at Bedell Cellars is the main component of the winery’s First Crush White, which is blended with sauvignon blanc and riesling.
“I want a bit more complexity in our varietal chardonnay,” he told me in an email. As with all of his wines, fermentation was done with ambient yeasts and while about 50 percent of the Bedell Cellars 2014 Chardonnay —our wine of the week — is steel fermented, the other 50 percent is fermented in older, neutral French oak barrels.
“I’m not looking for oak integration or flavors but want the increased mouth feel and roundness that occurs inside a barrel fermentation to integrate with the more austere properties of a stainless ferment. The wine only spends about 6 weeks in barrel,” Olsen-Harbich says.
The resulting wine, which retails for $35 at the Cutchogue winery, is citrusy and saline with a faint flinty edge. Gently creamy on a broad mid-palate, but bright and lemony with a little tart apple and distinct saline minerality on a long finish.
This is a style of chardonnay that Long Island can excel at – retaining the bright fruit flavors and acidity, but richer and more texturally interesting thanks to time in older barrels.